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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Friday, July 19, 2013

McDonnell Goblin Parasite Fighter Featured at Missouri Aviation Historical Society Meeting

By Carmelo Turdo
The upcoming 65th anniversary of the first flight of the McDonnell Aircraft Goblin parasite fighter was the subject of the July meeting of the Missouri Aviation Historical Society (MOAHS) Thursday evening at Creve Coeur Airport.  The tiny fighter first flew on July 22, 1948 and tests with an EB-29B carrier aircraft continued into 1949.  St. Louis, Missouri-based McDonnell Aircraft Company was the only contractor to answer the Request for Proposals (RFP) in 1942 for a propeller-driven parasite escort fighter for the extra-long range bomber then under development to bomb Germany from the U.S. (later the XB-36).  The RFP later changed to include a jet-powered fighter, and again McDonnell Aircraft responded and was awarded a contract for two prototypes for testing.  (Historic photos from the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum Archives).

McDonnell Aircraft XF-85 Goblin No. 1 with Hook Exposed
The concept of a parasite fighter had been tried before, and could have been  considered an operational tactic using Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk fighters launched and recovered by the Airships Akron and Macon in the early 1930s before both dirigibles were lost.  The Goblin was to be a proof of this more modern iteration of the concept rather than practical fighter.  Further variations of this practice were based on the B-36 using Republic F-84 fighters, but as with the Goblin, the advent of in-flight refueling of fighter aircraft made the parasite fighter concept all the more impractical. 

The Goblin Approached the EB-29B Carrier
This smallest of jet fighters was essentially built around the Westinghouse J-34 engine with minimal internal room available for fuel, cockpit instruments or weapons at this early stage of development.  The wingspan was just 21'1" and both wings were designed to fold upward so that the jet could fit inside the bomb bay of the B-36.  The 14'1" fighter had respectable flight performance, with added stability from the triple tail assembly and wingtip stabilizers.  The aircraft was launched and retrieved from a trapeze arrangement under the EB-29B  carrier aircraft, and the Goblin had a skid assembly that could be lowered in case ground recovery was needed.   

The Goblin is Captured in the Trapeze
Trials with the trapeze and hook arrangement began with a series of captive flights on July 22, 1948 with the Goblin still attached to the trapeze while McDonnell Aircraft test pilot Edwin Schoch powered the jet engine and tested the flight controls.  The first actual release occurred on August 23, but when Schoch attempted to hook onto the trapeze, the Goblin struck the trapeze, damaging the canopy and ripping his helmet off into the slipstream.  He managed to land the aircraft on the dry lake bed at Edwards (then Muroc) AFB with minimal additional damage.  Flights on October 14 and 15 concluded with successful hookups.  The next two flights, one in each prototype, were unsuccessful, and the program ended in April of 1949 after only six flights and about 2.5 hours of flight.
Mr. Les Eash with the Goblin Wind Tunnel Model (Nankivil photo)
Those members and visitors who attended the MOAHS meeting viewed viewed a slide presentation and short movie compiled by MOAHS President Dan O'Hara, and heard first-hand testimony by McDonnell Aircraft Company retiree Mr. Les Eash, who was the trapeze operator on the EB-29B carrier aircraft.  Also, a  wind tunnel model of the Goblin with it's early tail configuration was on display courtesy of the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum.  The museum also provided models of the Goblin and its proposed carrier aircraft, the B-36, both in I/72 scale for accurate size comparison.

Goblin Wind Tunnel Model and 1/72 Scale Models (Turdo photo)
Check out the MOAHS web site for the next meeting date, and become part of Midwest Aviation history as it unfolds!       


Goblin and B-36 Size Comparison (Turdo photo)

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